State of the Blueinthislight, 1/27/13

Just to let you guys know I’m alive.  Due to blinding, constant pain in my jaw, long suspected to be this, there were moments where the alternative seemed kinder.  It drove me to the ER on Wednesday, in fact, as I was convinced my jaw was dislocated.  TMJ can do that, apparently.  And it is officially TMJ now, because a doctor said so.  I’d long suspected due to previous and much less severe flare-ups that it was, and now I know.

As it happened, my jaw wasn’t actually dislocated, it’s just that the muscles on the right side of my jaw were so strongly and unrelentingly contracted that it’s stretching my jaw out of alignment.  I mean, I knew the jaw muscles were really powerful, but goddamn.  They also have some kinda endurance, because they still are.  It lets off a tiny little bit each day.

If that sounds bad to you, let me just confirm that it is in fact as painful as you might imagine.  While that’s the worst part – it seriously, seriously hurts – there’s more, as you might expect when half of your face goes haywire on you.  Currently, it feels as though someone injected a bunch of foam rubber in there; it’s reminiscent of that novocaine feeling you get when a dentist sticks you up with that stuff, but a lot different.  The only reason it resembles injected rubber/novocaine rather than a baseball bat to the face is because of that Tylenol that has codeine in it.  Jaw will only open maybe an inch, and it doesn’t quite close right either.  Takes conscious effort to talk without chewing the inside of my right cheek, which is ironic considering that I am entirely unable to chew anything else, such as food.

It’s okay, I’m well-armed; aside from the happy Tylenols, I have cold compresses, chamomile (a decent muscle relaxant) and ER paperwork justifying potentially a fuckton of sick leave.  As well, the pain is mostly gone now; it gets sore toward the end of the day, but it’s mild, and I refuse to not talk.  There’s only so many concessions I am willing to make to an extremely unreasonable jaw.  Working against me is a horde of female relations who were already terrified for my nutritional well-being because I’m skinny, so you can imagine their reaction to the news that OMG I CAN’T EAT.  You cannot know how much chocolate pudding I have in my fridge right now.  And applesauce.  And Jello.  This sounds ungrateful, I know, but I’m not.  It’s only that under the circumstances, my profligate cynicism gets pretty much free reign until I consciously think to check it.  Plus, you have to admit that when you’re in severe pain and irrationally fearing that your jaw may be stuck like this forever, the last thing you need is to have people constantly asking how you’re doing, thereby reminding you of your sudden and painful deformity.  It is a deformity too:  if you look at my face very closely, you can see my jaw jutting off to my right very slightly.

It not only hurts like hell and takes away my ability to chew food, but it literally twists my beatific visage?  It’s like it’s tailor made to piss me off.

The ER trip scared me a bit.  I have what a Carter Blood-Taker vampire called White Coat Phobia (no seemingly relevant link on Wikipedia, sorry), so as they took me into the back to do the preliminary checking of blood pressure/pulse stuff, my heart rate was high.  The agony of my maw didn’t help much either.  She checked my blood pressure twice, resorted to taking my pulse on my wrist instead of using that finger thingie they have, and asked me if I normally have a fast heartbeat.  No, I don’t think so.  Then they take me back to a bed in a room full of beds, and judging from the way the others were moaning, I suddenly didn’t think my little jaw thing was all that bad.  Then she asks me to take off my shirt as she’s getting out wires for that heart monitor thingie that’s always flatlining in TV shows; you know what I mean.  This has me thinking fuck, how fast was my pulse anyway?  Nightmare scenarios about underlying problems, most of them cancer, begin to form in my mind.  Then she starts putting sticky pads on my chest and hooks me up.

Doctor shows up a little later, I tell him I think my jaw’s dislocated, tell him why, the history, etc.  He feels my jaw and, oddly, sticks his fingers in my ears while he tells me to open my mouth.  No idea.  I’d usually ask, but talking hurts.  He says he doesn’t think it’s dislocated and tells me about TMJ as if I didn’t know what it was.  I start nodding immediately so as to show my preexisting knowledge of said acronym/disorder, incredibly irrationally annoyed that he disagrees with my diagnosis.  I know it’s TMJ, duh.  He prescribes x-rays.  You’re goddamn right x-rays.  We’ll see who’s right, doctor.

They wheel me shirtless to the x-ray room; or, well, not shirtless exactly, but the gown I had kinda looked like how a little kid would make a toga, I mean what the fuck.  I overhear the woman taking my x-rays asking questions of another older woman standing in the background like some CIA handler or something.  So good, trainee taking my x-rays.  She also took my glasses off my face, which pisses me off so bad, but anyway.  Get wheeled back to the bed, doc comes in a few minutes later:  no dislocation.  Fucking asshole.

I have no idea why I wanted to be right about that so bad, but I do know that had it been a dislocation, they could have reset my jaw and the pain would have ended.  As is, there’s pretty much nothing they can do.  So it wasn’t entirely my absurd ego scoffing at the notion that a doctor knows more about medicine than me.  It also rendered the whole exercise pointless, as I only went to the ER because I thought they’d need to reset my jaw, and I know they have to use like muscle relaxers and general anesthetic for that, so I figured a general practitioner would just send me to the hospital anyway.  Ah well.

So, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.  It fucking sucks.  In other news, I’m very behind on my writing, as horrific pain does make it difficult to concentrate.  Upcoming:  a Book Report on Moby Dick and an article on science and religion that I’ve been meaning to write for a while.  Sneak preview:  I enjoy various crucial aspects of both and consider that there is no conflict between the two.  Or actually, more like the conflict is manufactured by overly militant science nerds and religious fundamentalists, both acting as though they represent the whole of their respective sides.  I’m gonna try to make some peace.  I also have to catch up on the blogs I follow, particularly that kindly vegan woman’s and B-Dog’s.  Have not been capable of reading with attention for a while now.

It’s gonna be jawsome.

Yep, I went there.  I always go there.

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Happy 12/21/12!

As we all know, the world ends today – because clearly there’s not a more mundane, practical reason to the Mayan Long Count calendar ending, right? – and I’d just like to say it’s been a privilege to participate in the exchange of ideas here and to get to know some people here that are quite a ways outside the circles I normally move in.  It’s always good to broaden one’s horizons, to hear and to be heard, to bring disparate peoples together that might not otherwise meet.  Nothing but good can come of it, if done for its own sake.

Hey, how do you think time zones will affect the imminent apocalypse?  For example, maybe the world might end here first, since I’m in roughly the same time zone that the Mayans might have been in, maybe, so maybe we here might blink out of existence or burst into flames or be swallowed up by the very earth itself first, and then it might spread out to the rest of the wor

Bulls: They Don’t Care About The Children

So, apparently WordPress has these daily prompt things.  This guy I follow, a Buddhist guy who is doubtlessly far more disciplined in his meditation than I am, took the opportunity to relate an anecdote about a face to face encounter with a berry loving bear that made me recall a similar story from my own youth.

I wanted to make that into a pun so bad.  Also, it was the writing prompt from three days ago (fight or flight experiences), so I’m late.  But then I’m still writing up a story about the bat me and my coworkers rescued back on Halloween, so it could be much worse.

Imagine that I’m nine or ten or so; it’s easy, I’ve changed so little since then.  Myself, my brother and our friend are playing at said friend’s house in a cozy little semi-rural community with a pasture out back containing a few head of cattle.  Such sideline ranches were and are pretty common in such places.  We kinda weren’t supposed to be playing in said pasture, but we did all the time to no ill effect.  There was also a treehouse toward the back of the pasture, so there were mixed messages at play.

As we all also know, children have to urinate every thirty seconds, so I went inside, did so and came back out and found that my friends had moved on elsewhere while I was gone.  Slightly annoyed and figuring they were out in the pasture, I set about looking for them.

I crossed the cattle guardfor those who don’t know, it’s a shallow pit across the gate leading into a pasture with big thick tubing laid in parallel across it; people can walk across it, trucks can drive over it, but cattle won’t traverse it – looked across the pasture, still couldn’t see anyone.  There were a couple of storage sheds on the left a little ways down, but I didn’t figure they were in there.  We weren’t supposed to play in those either, only we actually didn’t, being that the very same implements that are proficient in doing farmey ranchey type things are also proficient in maiming children.  Also, they were locked.  Seeing as how I had a clear view of the entire pasture, and knowing they wouldn’t be in the storage sheds, I concluded that they had to be in the wide alley between them.

So off I went, calling out, and thus when I rounded the corner and entered the alley, the massive, angry bull at the end of it knew I was coming.  Worse, it was a dead-end alley, so I’d inadvertently cornered it.  You can’t really describe what this feels like; in fact, for a few eternal seconds it doesn’t really feel like anything.  My brain seemed to resist accepting that there was a bull looming there, as if it were a trick of the sunlight and it was really my two companions, one standing on the other’s shoulders, making little bull horns atop his head with his fingers.  The one thought I did have was little more than bemusement with the fact that antagonistic bulls really do lower their heads to point their horns at you and snort and stamp at the ground just like in the cartoons.

It stamped again, harder, and shifted its weight as if it were preparing to move, quickly, so my survival instincts decided this impromptu musing was unacceptable, locked me out of my own brain, and then I was running.  I just sort of went along, watching the grass pass behind me and marvelling at how automatic it all was.  Nothing I felt even casually resembled fear in the classical sense until I noticed first the tremors in the ground, then the rumbling behind me and realized it was chasing me.

That sounds bad, but consider:  I was like ten years old.  He obviously just wanted out of that alley when he saw his exit blocked, else I wouldn’t be here typing this.  Bulls can run up to twenty miles per hour, and adult humans tend to do about eight, and short, chubby ten year old legs must be considerably slower.  If not for the fight/flight override, maybe I would have heard it slow down or stop, or maybe I would have recalled that I was tiny and it was huge, and thus, as a threat, it probably didn’t really take me all that seriously.  As such, I’m forced to conclude that it merely wanted to terrify me senseless, a task at which it unquestionably succeeded.  Really, the way the ground shook when he ran was surreal, and I think it helped with the disconnect I experienced despite those tremors being easily the scariest thing about the whole experience.  Feeling that, there was no question how heavy and powerful that animal was.

That said, there was ample reason to assume it meant to trample me.  To those with little experience being around cattle, it’s hard to adequately explain how incredibly bad tempered bulls can be.  Consider that while all the other animals on the ranch are being fattened, milked, shorn, etc., the only thing the bulls are “asked” to do is literally be sex machines, and that’s not so much a question of asking as it is a you-really-don’t-want-to-try-to-dissuade-him sort of thing.  You don’t want to dissuade him because he weighs 2700 pounds on average, most of it muscle and arrogance, and is accustomed to every single entity he comes across being extremely deferent, even its owners.  They are just a soft, hornless little sticks to be broken in its eyes, make no mistake.  A friend of mine owns a bull with particular infamy among the bull riding crowd, and he has to sneak into his own pasture to feed the thing, because despite having owned this bull for years now, it will attempt to run him out if it sees him.  That guy’s an ex-bull rider himself, and you know why?  Because after he was bucked from his last ride, the bull, having successfully divested his rider and calmed himself down, idly stepped on my friend’s head and accidentally fractured his skull.  They are powerful, temperamental, territorial animals not trifled with even by those with much experience handling them.

If I’d had a cape with an anvil hidden behind it, things would have gone down very, very differently.

Not a bit of any of that passed through my head then; it was all running, and then sprinting, and whole bunch of ohgodohgodohgodohgodohgod, so I had no idea what was going on back there.  Here’s how full of adrenalin I was:  I wasn’t fleeing quite in the direction of the cattle guard/gate, but more straight at the barbed wire fencing next to it, and yet there was no room in the reptile brain for course correction, so I could do nothing but sprint straight at it, climb it in like two seconds and leap as far off the other side and into safety as I could, without a single scratch.  If I tried that now as a quasi-athletic adult, I’m fairly sure I would accidentally decapitate myself three or four times.

That’s pretty much it.  I did keep running, all the way into my friend’s house, where his mother was soon quite perplexed upon finding me out of breath in her kitchen after having slammed her back door.  Again thinking quickly, if you can call it that, I only said that I couldn’t find my friends.  She didn’t press the issue any, only chided me gently for slamming the door.  She was nice.  Even now, more than one decade later, she still has no idea about any of this.  And to this day, barbed wire fences still look so fragile.

The moral of this story is obviously that being chased by a bull makes one awesome at parkour as well as temporarily capable of great social chicanery.

Or maybe it’s that when the normal conscious mind is bypassed and instinct takes over, we become hyper-competent superheroes in the vein of Batman, except it only happens in moments of pure terror, you can’t control it, and it only makes you run away, in which case the moral is that life is a cruel and excoriating mockery of our very dreams.

Yet contravening this is the fact that awesome stuff like literature and music and yoga exist, leaving only the possibility that the moral is that when your parents or their temporary proxies tell you not to play in the bull’s pasture, maybe you shouldn’t assume they just want to ruin your pastoral frolics.  Usually, there’s some good intent mixed with the resentment for how you ruined their lives.

And for that we should all be berry, beary grateful.

Book Report I: Indiscriminate, Empty Sex in the Time of Cholera

Spoilers abound y’all, both for Love in the Time of Cholera and Romeo and Juliet…although the latter is a four hundred year old play written by the most famous author of all time and whose main characters are synonymous for love itself.  Despite that, I did try to hold back on the endings for both.  Impossible to do entirely, of course, and do my argument justice, but I tried.

Love in the Time of Cholera is a very, very misunderstood novel.  Now despite the prominence of the ‘misanthropy’ tag in the word cloud to the right, I don’t want to condescend to anyone whose interpretations differ from mine; far from it.  People misunderstand Romeo and Juliet too, thinking it an epic and moving love story despite it’s being ridden with pathological obsession, willful ignorance, youthful recklessness and a love affair whose bloodiness is rendered even more remarkable by its incredibly short duration.  This misunderstanding of both stories is primarily a problem of convention in storytelling in that love stories are maybe THE basic story in the entire history of fiction, and thus readers have been somewhat trained, myself included, to not question its legitimacy.  Real life might play a role in this too, though.  Love is a very confusing thing, and its full scope defies easy definition.  People confuse infatuation, obsession, lust and a million other things with it every day, all day.  Thus, you get two characters, they declare that they love one another, and why shouldn’t we believe them?

Well, why should we?  I’m not saying the characters are willfully lying, but even if they’re telling the truth, it doesn’t mean they’re right.  Consider Romeo, who crashes a masquerade thrown by the Capulet family, who all want him dead, to see some girl he’s lovesick for as the play starts.  Previous to this, Romeo insisted to his friend that none of the other girls at this party would ever get his mind off of Rosaline, and yet Juliet, after about ten seconds, does so.  They only meet briefly, both of them are masked, and all they really say to each other is pretty much goddamn but I would really like to make out with you.  It’s love.  Then comes the famous balcony scene, where there’s already talk of marriageand Romeo expresses mild disappointment that Juliet will offer him no “satisfaction”.  It might be appropriate now to mention that after this, it’s revealed that Rosaline took a vow of chastity, contrasting with Juliet’s immediate desire to make out with a guy whose face she hasn’t even seen yet (it was a masquerade, remember), and suddenly we realize that when it comes to love, Romeo leads with his, you know, head, not his heart.

Then there’s the fact that Romeo is just a very selfish person.  After the above, he gets his buddy Mercutio killed in a duel when he refuses to fight, murders his would-be opponent Tybalt to avenge Mercutio, gets himself exiled, drags his confidante Friar Laurence into this mess by asking him to help Juliet escape town and an impending arranged marriage so she can marry Romeo instead, and murders for no real reason at all his rival suitor Count Paris after the clusterfuck of misunderstanding and suicide that ensues.  Oh, and in the original source that Shakespeare used for the play, Friar Laurence is hanged, what with the hiding of Romeo’s defiance of his exile and plotting to steal away a daughter of the powerful Capulet family and all.  Yes, that Romeo’s a peach.

And on the re-read of the play that I’m currently doing, I’m finding the evidence for my interpretation to be even more obvious than I’d remembered:  the play is full of what must have been incredibly dirty puns for its time (and hell, ours too), and Romeo’s intentions are directly questioned by more than one of the characters, including Juliet herself.  In fact, upon Friar Laurence learning of his affection for Juliet, he tells Romeo:

Is Rosaline, whom thou didst love so dear,
So soon forsaken? young men’s love then lies
Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.

You don’t bullshit a bullshitter, Romeo.  And the good Friar was a supreme bullshitter; he tricked Romeo into suicide.  Accidentally.

So, it’s easy to summarize the mistaking of lust for love in Romeo and Juliet, and it’s fairly easy too to explain how lust gets mistaken for love in the first place:  lust is “bad”, while love is good, and the line between the two is far finer than most people will admit.  The difference, to me, can be summed up in another of Shakespeare’s lines: love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.  By Shakespeare’s own definition, Romeo never loved Rosaline, because he altered right damn quick when meeting Juliet, which I can’t help but think had to do with that vow of chastity business.  Also, the characters are teenagers.  For them, lust is an autocrat, and it rules with an iron and oft lubricated fist.  Mistaking it for love, thereby applying extreme devotion to such a capricious and already overwhelming urge, is very volatile.  But don’t take my word for it.  Recall how often and with what fervor you took care of yourself at that age.  Now imagine swearing undying fidelity and devotion to your own hand…the lack of conversation, the two wedding rings, always wondering if the sex is just to humor you.  Hey, at least you wouldn’t be getting anyone killed.

Ultimately, you need only ask the question:  What about Juliet caused Romeo to fall in love with her?  You can’t answer it.

Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, the protagonists of Love in the Time of Cholera, are harder to sniff out.  Take the basic gist of Romeo and Juliet, make it epic in a literary sense, and you have everything in place to make women the world over swoon over a nerdy, homely, philandering pedophilic piece of shit, as well as to make men not really understand Florentino’s whole deal with Fermina.  But while the virulence of their “love” is far more subtle, it runs much deeper:  the lies span decades, the chaos aroused reaches much further, and the flimsy basis upon which their eventual elderly dalliance is predicated makes it seem downright pathetic.

Florentino’s first sighting of Fermina was textbook love at first sight.  Now I have no doubt that when Florentino first saw Fermina, he felt the earth quake beneath his feet, the blood rushed to his head – we know which one – and angels of the Lord sang their inevitable love to all the world, their heavenly faces far eclipsed by Fermina’s beauty.  He surely did.  It happens sometimes.  It’s not love, though.  The important thing to note here is that at first sight, for Florentino and for all of us, only one reaction is logically possible:  attraction.  Love of the sort Florentino professes for Fermina throughout the rest of the novel cannot have taken root at a glance, much less bloomed.

Not that I can absolutely rule out that there can’t be a higher form of connection, an automatic knowing that can enable true and full love at first sight.  I can’t rule it out entirely because there’s a certain someone in my life who fell for me in such a manner.  She looked at me, and she just knew somehow that I was for her.  Me being my normal thick-headed self, it took a little more time for me to realize why I was spending all day thinking about her, looking forward to talking to her, being so affected by her joys and sorrows that they became my own joys and sorrows, and quickly finding nobody else to be nearly as attractive as I found and still find her to be.  I’d just been left by another girl, and I swear I was so thick that I would even walk around asking myself why I couldn’t be in love with her instead of the ex, and of course I was.  For almost fifteen years I’ve seen everything she felt in that first moment pan out, so it’s hard to believe there isn’t some kind of mojo involved.  Yes, mojo.  Still, after the parallel paths of pain, betrayal and blood left in the wakes of Romeo and Florentino, I don’t think that’s what was being portrayed.  I also think it’s a testament to the skill of Shakespeare and Garcia Marquez that their tales bear up two such diametrically opposed interpretations.

Just a brief caveat there.  Onward.

What follows is a protracted flurry of letter exchanges, violin serenades and borderline stalking that is further definable by the near-entire lack of anything that would help them actually know one another, as emphasized in the book by the narration outright stating that Florentino ascribed all manner of improbable and lofty attributes onto Fermina, who served as a pretty blank slate that he was enamored with.  The content of the letters is never quoted directly, but it’s insinuated that Florentino plagiarized the purple sea of love poetry he read constantly, while Fermina reciprocated with mundane daily itineraries.  There was next to no actual contact between them:  in fact, when there is substantial contact between the two after a long absence (Fermina’s father Lorenzo discovers the pen pal affair, threatens to kill Florentino, and packs his daughter away to live with faraway relatives for a while), Fermina sees that he doesn’t resemble the ideal she loves, and brusquely ends it with a wave of her hand.  When it happens, you feel sorry for him, but not later.  Oh, not later.

It’s not even the lack of face-t0-face contact that makes me skeptical; if I’d gotten the impression that the letters were written and read by two people baring their souls to one another to any extent at all, so that when they did meet it might feel like they knew each other, I’d feel differently, but as is it feels like Garcia Marquez specifically wanted them to seem pretty yet vapid on the one hand, and utterly banal on the other.

Up to this point it’s subtle; you get everything from Florentino’s desperately skewed perspective, though he’s not the actual narrator.  Once Fermina marries the improbably accomplished Dr. Urbino, whose parrot can recite the Latin Mass, and once Florentino gets wind of it, all subtlety goes out the window as Florentino Ariza embarks upon a decades long fuck spree, the likes of which would scandalize even Don Draper.  He chases widows, married women, random girls encountered in the street, the mistresses of his friends, anyone – anyone.  Those who view the novel as a true love story would no doubt argue that his pain at losing Fermina drove him to desperately flee his heartbreak via sex, but I’d argue that’s not the case at all.

It’s all about conquest for Florentino, that much is very clear.  He refers to his “lovers” as little birds, and himself as a falconer.  There’s little consideration for anything about them beyond sex, and cheap sex devoid of any emotional infrastructure at that, which he bafflingly confuses with love.  Tellingly, there’s also little consideration for Fermina herself throughout this part, which comprises the bulk of the novel, and when he does think about her, it’s most often in a she-can-never-know-I-am-such-a-fucking-manwhore context.  When he does deign to talk to any of them, rather than simply leave after the act, they basically talk about sex.  And lest you think this is a matter of interpretation, the simple fact is that with the sheer number of fuck-buddies he had during this period essentially makes it impossible chronologically for him to do anything more than fuck them and run.

Worse, he takes a very imperial mentality into his carnality.  As I said, he sees the mistress of his friend, causing said friend to have his crew steal everything in her house.  Florentino not only regards this with breathtaking insouciance, but afterward decides not to see her anymore.  That’s bad, but this is even worse: with one of his many married women, he takes some red paint and a brush and paints the words This pussy is mine on her belly.  At no point does he even begin to consider the ramifications of this with her husband, who of course finds Florentino’s frat boy masterwork and proceeds to slit his wife’s throat.  Naturally, Florentino’s first thought isn’t remorse – and it never was either – but merely that his throat would be slit next.  He does plant roses on her grave, but it’s just a pretty gesture that comes off empty as hell.  At best, he does it more for the romance of it than any sincere atonement.  At worst, it’s a way to brag about his conquest right out in public without having to expose himself.  To people other than his little birds, I mean.  Tellingly, again, the roses grow unchecked over the years, slowly taking over the cemetery, until its eventual caretaker has them ripped out.  This is not subtle symbolism.

The last affair, however, is truly repugnant even by his own standards:  Florentino by now is a prominent member of the city, running a riverboat freight business, and in this capacity he gains the trust of the parents of a 14 year old girl who is sent to the city to attend school, serving as the girl’s official guardian.  You don’t want to see where this is going, but you can’t really help it by this point.  Yes, he not only abuses the trust of the parents as well as the trust of the girl whose care was entrusted to him, but as she begins to realize she’s a sex toy to him despite his creepy, fatherly method of talking dirty to her, her grades fall victim to depression and she eventually commits suicide when news of Dr. Urbino’s death reaches Florentino, giving him his big second chance at Fermina.  He does at least cry over it – which is a first – but then he won’t even give Fermina time to reconcile herself to the loss of her husband before he shows up to declare his “love” again, so his tears are worth very little.

And this is really the crux of my argument:  decades later, when he does actually maneuver himself into a relationship with Fermina Daza, it feels more like a fuck buddy arrangement than love.  There is a legitimate fondness between them, as they do enjoy each others’ company even when they aren’t naked, but the fireworks that romance novel fans no doubt expected when they first made love must have been duds.  He goes after her like an overeager teenager and runs out of juice quick, while she just sort of takes it all, and the whole thing comes off very limp.  Still, after being pumped full of love for so long, their will stayed hard and firm, and they thrust themselves right back into it.  It’s typical of Florentino; they finally get around to knowing each other, and it’s only in the Biblical sense.

Florentino was a hollow creature, and he stuffed his empty chest with plagiarized love poetry and passed it off as a heart to both Fermina and himself.  At one point he even divides humanity into two types,  paraphrasing: “those who screw, and those who do not”, and then insists that those “who do not” can’t be trusted, thereby projecting and legitimizing his own abject promiscuity by telling himself that everyone wants to do what he does, but are all in denial.  So you see, it’s not that he’s simply a cock with a man attached who puts on a front of romanticism so that he doesn’t have to even attempt to control his urges and can justify ignoring and not caring about the extensive damage his rampant fucking causes; it’s everyone else who are wrong!  In addition to keeping it from himself, he keeps from her the one thing that has defined him in the time that she’s been unavailable, the thing that drove him to use and discard a vulnerable young girl, to speak to her as a father while he was undressing her, to abuse the trust placed in him by both her and her parents, which was so reprehensible that even such a depraved, amoral creature as him was struck – though not near hard enough – by the sheer evil of it.  He was so dedicated to keeping it from her that he practiced the strictest secrecy with literally every other sexual liaison he ever had throughout his entire life with anyone but Fermina, and not for the sake and safety of either his “little birds” or himself, but so that Fermina would never know.  He spent decades plotting to lie to her.

Fermina, in turn, was an aloof, haughty creature who showed no warmth until she was reeling both from the loss of her long-held husband and the fact that he’d had an affair in the latter years of their marriage.  So while she’d late realized that she never truly had the eminent Dr. Juvenal Urbino, that nothing more than an exotic face coinciding with opportunity was able to lure him away, here was Florentino, returned from her childhood, her first love, who had never married, had opted to wait for her for decades, who loved her so that he didn’t want anyone if he couldn’t have her.  With the memory of her husband’s infidelity fresh in her mind, as well as his death, it’s no wonder that she, finally, would see Florentino to be exactly the thing to heal her, not realizing that he is infidelity incarnate.  She was the ultimate conquest for Florentino, nothing more to him, and by the time he wins her in the latter pages of the book, it turned my stomach.

Interpret it however you like, but one thing, I believe, is inarguable:  there was never any truth between the two, and without that, love as we conventionally idealize it and as Florentino and Fermina believed they had could not have been between them.  Less inarguable but to me just as convincing are the constant parallels between love and cholera itself, present even in the title.  Urbino “fights” Florentino’s “love” of Fermina for decades just as he fights to modernize the measures taken against cholera outbreak and prevention.  Just as Florentino mistakes his lust for love to the point of becoming lovesick, other maladies – including one of Florentino’s – are misdiagnosed as cholera. The ending, too, revolves entirely around it, with our two lovers trapped on the riverboat because of the yellow flag it flies, warning of a cholera outbreak on the boat.  No one will let them disembark to protect the public from it; if only Florentino’s little birds – and Fermina too – had taken similar measures, much misery would have been avoided.  Of course, there was no cholera aboard, just as there wasn’t any love; it was a lie concocted by Florentino to get himself alone with Fermina.  It’s really the only way it could have ended, all things considered.

Finally, consider the very beginning, in which Dr. Urbino, who for decades thwarted Florentino’s ADD riddled cock, tends to the suicide of a man named Jeremiah Saint-Amour.  That’s Saint, and then Amour.  Love dies – takes its own life, even – before we even meet either Ariza or Daza, and is laid to rest by the novel’s embodiment of rationality and logic, Dr. Urbino.  Further, in the course of seeing to the arrangements, he comes across Jeremiah’s secret lover, and finds to be unsavory both her complicity in Jeremiah’s suicide and her refusal to enter the mausoleum of formal widowhood.  Urbino saw it as evidence that their romance was cheap, while she, better understanding the true nature of love better than anyone else besides our dead Saint of Love, implicitly understood that because Jeremiah loved her, he wouldn’t want that for her.  Couple this with Garcia Marquez’ own warning to “not fall into my trap”, and really this whole post could have been much shorter.

So why do we all want to read this as a swoony epic love story?  Well, because it’s nice to believe in that kind of love, that outlasts most human lifespans, much less typical relationships; that drives its celebrants to any ends, to endure any heartache or suffer any interval of loneliness in the hope, however faint, of getting to be with us again.  Garcia Marquez is simply pointing out that there’s a fine line between that and obsession, and that it’s dangerous:  Fermina’s rejection of Florentino in their youth drove Florentino to walk a long, dark road paved with blood and semen in order to replace his flimsy self-respect with facile sexual conquest, and its awful cost was entirely paid by other people.  Garcia Marquez is pointing out that it takes a loving and selfless heart to love so absolutely as Florentino imagined he loved Fermina, yet for all his grandiloquent posturing, for all the poems, for all the violin serenades, he saw fit to only put forth the illusion of selflessness while he carnally, prolifically, selfishly indulged, committing the same wrong a thousandfold that had so grievously wounded Fermina when her husband once lost his struggle to avoid committing that same wrong.

In short:  Florentino was a motherfucker.  The end.

 

After-the-fact edit:  I hope it’s clear that I don’t attack Florentino from a prudish perspective; it’s not the sex that’s wrong, it’s the hypocrisy of it.  It’s not that he prefers multiple partners, it’s the addict-like abject desperateness with which he seeks them out.  It’s not that he doesn’t seek a deeper commitment with them, it’s that he manipulates and discards them, sometimes to bloody effect, all while claiming to be true to Fermina.  If Romeo was a capricious prick, then Florentino is, like, the cosmic essence of prickness distilled into a human shape.  Not everyone’s cut out for monogamy and being married with children, but nobody gets a pass on being dishonest, whatever their predilections may be, and particularly when their dishonesty is so damaging.

Triskaidekawhatever

I swear I don’t do this often.

By “this”, I mean posting shit about myself that none of you could possibly care about.  I also probably mean whining too.  Cuz I’m not gonna lie, this could possibly be construed as whining.  To me, whining would be if I were to relate the events that I will shortly relate, and then assert that these events mean my life is shit and that the breaking of my coffee decanter plunged me headlong into blackest depression.  It’s not, and it didn’t:  there won’t be anything stronger than exasperation here.  Intense exasperation, in some cases, but still exasperation.  In fact, the only thing I’d say is remarkable about any of it is the rapid and seemingly daily occurrence of things that would exasperate one:  by Wednesday I was waiting for inanimate objects to defy my will.  It would be a bitterly short wait.

Monday:  Wake up 30 minutes before due at work.  Realize near-flat tire wasn’t aired up last night as intended.  Get up, dress, run out door, drive to thieving 50 cent convenience store air compressor down the street with only two quarters in pocket.  Pray near-flat tire isn’t being shredded.  Air up tire, be too groggy to appreciate that tire is still intact.  Drive to work and have rest of day be emblematic of morning.

Tuesday:  Bash knee really hard on door at work.  Force self to not limp until lunchtime, then lie and say it happened during lunch to avoid bureaucracy.  Arrive at home, rest, think to self my knee’s better than I thought it would be, that was lucky, then attempt to stand.  Howl wordlessly.  Limp for next two days.

Wednesday:  Wake up, stagger limp into kitchen, immediately knock coffee decanter to ground.  Stare in disbelief at razor sharp wreckage in bare feet.  Dismember black thingie that holds coffee filter, drip coffee directly into mug.  Leave broken glass cleanup for later, because FUCK.

Thursday:  Resolve to finally solve rare and week-long problem:  too many ideas to write about; all are intertwined.  Pick most tangled one, spend rest of night trying to not write eighteen essays at once.

Friday:  Awaken minutes before computer locks up with previously mentioned and actually good essay displayed, as if to mock me.  As if it wanted me to see my ideas die.  Resist urge to call in sick.

I think it’s all because I mocked the previous Friday, which was of course the 13th.  I even pointed out that 13 used to be a good number before superstitious idiots perfectly reasonable people who believe that numbers can hurt them slandered its reputation so callously.  Thank you, reality, for showing me that uninformed superstition triumphs over an ancient culture’s history, culture and spirituality.

That’s just fucking great isn’t it.

Do rhetorical questions get question marks?  I’m too busy looking up the number thirteen on Wikipedia.  See, back in the day, when some bad shit happened there were, like, thirteen things present.  Sometimes.  Still, groups of twelve people do bad shit all the time, so why not demonize twelve?  Better yet:  you know what number was somehow present for every bad thing that has ever happened ever?  One.  Yes, the loneliest number.  I WONDER WHY.

Thanks for reading.  Apologies for all this not being relevant to any other human being in any possible way.

Post-script!  A few minutes ago:  Click away from New Post screen by accident.  Hit back and find it blank.  Abort imminent blind rage/crying jag with crash course on WordPress draft functionality.

Misanthropy Fuel

Allow me now to share my early morning aneurysm with you fine people.

Aww. It’s so cute when I pretend that I have readers like that.

My brother just brought my attention to an article on Gawker, and Christ I wish he hadn’t. No, I won’t source the article: am I writing a term paper for college here? No.

No, I am not.

Anyway, in this article, the results of a poll conducted among upper middle class people were reported. Said poll inquired how much income some of these families were bringing in, and then it asked whether or not they felt “poor”. Did you ever think someone who brings in three quarter of a million dollars a year could feel poor? WHY YES THEY CAN, ACTUALLY. “So, so poor,” actually. Allow me now to bring your attention to those little marks before the first ‘So’ and after the word ‘poor’? That means it’s a quote. That means it’s their own words.

THEIR OWN MOTHERFUCKING WORDS. THEIR. OWN. WORDS. I don’t mean to treat my readers as stupid by getting this point across with a blunt object to the head, but the idea that a person bringing in such an income could be mistaken as to their own prosperity, that a full grown and university educated adult could not know what poor actually means, that they would be so ignorant as to declare it publically…all of this requires that I relay this to you with as much clarity as possible, else it would seem like hyperbole on my part rather than on theirs. That would be the natural conclusion, wouldn’t it? Nobody could be that ignorant, right?

Ah, but one of them anticipated that us in the unwashed masses would react with a confused mix of disbelief, mirth and rage, and so they kindly broke down their monthly income for us: you see, when you take a closer look, you’ll clearly see that they’re really only making a measly $11k a month, and that after expenses against that $11k, there’s only a paltry $4k or so left as disposable income. What’s more, they referred to us naysayers as “haters”, effectively rendering their breakdown of their finances into a mathematical variant of the white trash standard: “YOU DON’T KNOW ME!!!”

See, the problem lies in the fact that their woeful inability to buy a new private island every month doesn’t exactly get at my heartstrings, being that their disposable income per month is more than double my ENTIRE income in a month. That is, on its face, blatantly, nakedly NOT poverty. It isn’t. How they feel is immaterial, this is nothing to do with emotion; there has been delineated both by formal government legislation and informal societal consensus a state known as poverty. There are qualifiers to said state, and anyone lacking those qualifiers does not live in said state. That’s it. And no, absurd senses of entitlement are not a qualifier.

It’s a classic case of rationalization: despite what they say, they don’t feel “poor”. They think they do, but they do not. So what is it? Well, it’s that they know people – a boss, a neighbor, a relative, perhaps – that make significantly more money than them, and being shallow and materialistic, they are consumed by jealousy and feelings of inferiority because those guys own twelve summer houses on four continents while they must content themselves with only having three on two. In short, they feel GREEDY, not poor. Absurd senses of entitlement are not a qualifier.

This paragraph is a late edit, as this just came to me a minute ago, but there’s also a pervasive and widespread victim mentality involved here.  Their sentiment, honestly expressed, would be:  yes, I am so cash that my blue blood has turned green, but I’d sure like some more money.  It wasn’t honestly expressed, however.  They are objectively not poor, and yet they claimed they felt this way.  Your loving author/father figure has labored in a Herculean fashion through the embolisms and broken monitors and cognitive dissonance and discovered that in this case, what they mean by “poor” is more like “poor me”.

Remember how I said how my gross monthly income is less than their net? Now, do you want to ask me if I myself feel poor? I mean, I must, right? Here, I’ll do it for you:

Hey, do you feel poor? I mean, you don’t drive a Rolls, your apartment isn’t carpeted with the soft, pliant skin of slain Union workers, and hell, I bet you never, ever have enough money to afford that new high-end champagne that’s made from the blood of Southeastern Asian slave girlboys who turned 18 and were rendered useless to their clients! It’s quite piquant. Why, if I couldn’t afford it, I’d be quite vexed. Could you imagine? Quelle embarras! Je cacher sous un rock*!

No, I don’t feel poor. That guy who rides up and down my street on a bicycle that asks me for change now and then and clearly has nowhere to lay his head? That guy’s poor. Yes. That guy’s poor, and we need to rise up and kill our upper middle classes with fucking nuclear winter Wrath of God fucking globally cataclysmic apocalype hellfire, apparently.

But really, what does this say about our society? Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems from where I’m at that a person laboring under such unfathomable ignorance and greed and selfishness is literally and objectively useless on any level deeper than the superficial. Such a person cannot be a good spouse. Such a person cannot be a good parent, citizen or friend. It’s not possible. They have absolutely no perspective on themselves as people, nor their place in society, and likewise they entirely lack an appreciation of their good fortune; it may actually be literally impossible to be more ungrateful. Everything such a person does comes from a state of thorough selfishness and delusion, and thus everything they do, everything that comes from them, is tainted from the start. What passes for their love is surely conditional and subservient to not being defied or put out by its object. The wisdom they pass onto their children is the worst, deepest, most pernicious kind of lie: the kind that comes from such blindness to reality that it’s mistaken as truth. Ultimately, a person so lacking in any kind of knowledge of themselves cannot offer anything to anyone, because they cannot know themselves at all, much less what they might have to offer.

There is, basically, no feasible way that such people can do anything but make the worlds they move in worse and worse, eventually dying and leaving nothing behind but damage that they literally are incapable of taking responsibility for. Their children will come up even worse, too. They, like their parents, will mistake “respectability” for good, greed for need, and they will forever be ungrateful for the security they take for granted and that so many others will never know in their lifetimes.

The Hindus believe that humanity is now living through the Kali Yuga, the end of their cyclical model of time, as well as its darkest point. During this Yuga, the world’s depravity and perversity grows and grows until it collapses on itself, leveling the field for the subsequent golden age that will replace it. From my understanding – which is admittedly not perfect, I am not an expert by any stretch of that word, much as these people are not poor – they meant exactly this. That’s not to say I’m vouching for the absolute truth of the existence of the Yugas, but reading shit like this does kind of make you wish it were true, if only because it would mean this idiocy is on a clock.

That’s a good point to close on: these people, at least to me, are so repugnant, so degenerated, so deeply and irretrievably wrong-headed that it actually seems like we do need some sort of apocalypse to fix it. What else could suffice? Once we as a people are this far gone, nothing’s left but to swipe all the pieces from the board in a fit of godly outrage, go back into monkey mode for a while, and start the fuck over.

And okay, I relent.  Here’s the source.

Please take note of Gawker’s use of the phrase ‘class rage’. No other response to this essay or their article is appropriate. Coming as I do from such a background that even making a quarter million a year rather than the three quarter reported above would be thoroughly life-changing down to the very core of my being, Gawker’s excellent article rendered me pretty much blind with it.

Sorry for ruining your day. Thank you for reading.

*:  A study that I and a friend of mine read a few years ago (the source of which is long lost) found that actual rich people, like reeeeeally rich people, don’t act like this.  Actual rich people, in their habits and ideas, have much more in common with the working class, and it’s only milquetoast douchebag upper middle class wannabe rich people that model their social behavior on Thurston and Eunice “Lovey” Howell.  It makes a lot of sense when you consider how essential utilitarianism is to both lifestyles.  Think about it:  while you spent three hours in the wine aisle googling wine on your iPhone to find the perfect bottle of merlot for your swank dinner party because you think somebody in a movie once said merlot is really good, Steve Jobs was building a sprawling dungeon in China in order to make as many of his employees commit suicide as possible.  Would you do that?  No, you would not, you’d fall back onto your fainting couch and opine on how terrible that is.  In fact, once your feeble, quailing heart had recovered, you’d twitter from your iPhone about how terrible it is, congenitally oblivious to irony as you are.  As you can see, there’s a lot to say on this, and it deserves its own essay eventually.